August 26th, 2010 at 12:38pm
A study just released by the Centers for Disease Control shows that the annual cost of vehicle crashes in the U.S. at more than $99 billion! The boron steel modern cars are made out of is so strong that the “Jaws of Life” used by most emergency crews cannot cut through it. Ford has an iguana problem at its transmission plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan. All that and more, plus John responds to your questions and comments in the You Said It! segment.
This is Autoline Daily for August 26, 2010. And now, the news.
TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS = $99 BILLION
I should say, here’s a shocking statistic. The Detroit News reports that a study just released by the Centers for Disease Control shows that the annual cost of vehicle crashes in the U.S. at more than $99 billion! 99 BILLION! That figure covers medical expenses and productivity losses. The cost of direct medical care was $17 billion. That amounts to $500 for each licensed driver in the U.S. per year. Total annual fatalities on America’s roads are about 36,000. Another interesting statistic: more men – 70 percent – were killed and injured – 52 percent – than women. I guess we’re just a whole lot more reckless.
UNION PACIFIC AUTOFLEX (subscription required)
Railroads move a HUGE amount of freight across the U.S., and new vehicles make up a sizable chunk of that cargo. To make things easier for automakers, Union Pacific just unveiled a new type of railcar called the AutoFlex. According to Ward’s, these cars can be reconfigured in just 24 hours to carry different types vehicles. That may not sound like a big deal, but it can take months for railroads to maneuver their boxcars around if there’s unexpected demand for a certain kind of vehicle. AutoFlex allows Union Pacific to quickly switch between carrying trucks or passenger cars, saving automakers money. Surprisingly, the design is so innovative that it’s resulted in 15 patents. Union Pacific is “on track” – ha, ha – to build 100 AutoFlex cars per year.
NO ECODYNAMICS FOR US CUSTOMERS (subscription required)
Kia was set to introduce a new environmentally friendly sub-brand in the U.S., but Ward’s reports that the idea has been torpedoed. EcoDynamics was unveiled last year at the Frankfurt Motor Show. It was supposed to be a global affair, but limited resources have caused the company to rethink its strategy. Kia is also wary of introducing yet another brand in North America. The huge expense of marketing another vehicle lineup also played a role in the decision. Still, EcoDynamics vehicles are offered in Europe and many of their features are available on Kias in the U.S.
JAWS OF LIFE INEFFECTIVE WITH NEW STEEL (subscription required)
When safety regulators in the United States start mandating new regulations, they often ignore the impact they have in the real world. Roof-crush regulations that recently went into effect are now forcing automakers to design A-pillars that are so thick, they can partially block a driver’s view of pedestrians and traffic coming in from the side. Now Ward’s reports that the boron steel needed to make roofs stand up to those crush standards is so strong that the “Jaws of Life” used by most emergency crews to cut open cars involved in accidents cannot cut through that steel. They need to replace their equipment with a new type of “Jaws of Life” that cost about $5,000, a big expense, especially for smaller communities that are going through tough economic times.
FORD EXPANDING IN ASIA
Ford is taking advantage of its return to profitability and is putting the pedal to the metal to expand in Asia. The Associated Press reports that the company will introduce eight new models in India over the next five years. And it’s investing $350 million along with Mazda in Thailand to make pick-up trucks and subcompact cars. Ford’s vice president of Asia-Pacific, Joe Heinrichs, says that 70 percent of the company’s global growth will come from Asia over the next decade.
FORD TO CLOSE RANGER PLANT
Of course the pickup truck that Ford makes in Thailand is the Ranger, and while it’s investing in a new plant in Thailand to make that truck, it’s going to close a plant in the United States next year that makes an older version of the Ranger. Autoline Daily caught up with Mark Fields, the president of Ford’s American operations, who confirmed it will close.
By the way, a source at Ford tells Autoline Daily that a new Ranger could actually be built off the company’s new C-platform. Even though it’s a front-wheel-drive platform, it can also accommodate all wheel drive. Ford can now build about 1.8 million vehicles off that platform, including all variants.
And speaking of Ford plants, workers at the company’s transmission plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan, were startled to see an iguana running across the floor. They called in animal control experts who discovered it’s a very rare species of spiny-tailed iguana from the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. They speculate that it hitched a ride in a cargo truck or packing crate that came in from Ford’s assembly plant in Hermosillo, Mexico. However, Hermosillo is a long way from the Yucatan, so they really don’t know how it got there. The iguana now lives at the Detroit Zoo, which was thrilled to get such a rare species.
Coming up next, a look at some of your comments, like on the way I pronounce certain car names, and why VW does a better job with its brands than GM or Ford do.
ihategeneralmotors wrote-in because he doesn’t like the way I pronounce the name of the Volkswagen Phaeton.
“Oh my bujeezus. FAYTUN. not FAYUHTUN. UGH, John.” Well ihategeneralmotors, I’ll just add that to the list of other names that people don’t like the way I say them, like Hyundai.
AccidentallyFunny loved our story on researchers in Scotland who are making fuel from the by products of making whiskey. Actually he loved the way that Jim Hall commented on this story.
“‘Total waste of good scotch.’ I absolutely love this man, excellent host.”
I agree AccidentallyFunny, Hall has a way with words.
And finally Pedro Fernandez wrote-in to ask, “Did VW learn anything from GM and Ford owning too many brands and all the problems they had?”
Pedro the difference is the way that VW handles these brands. It treats them as stand-alone companies. For example, Audi has its own board of directors, its own annual report, its own design and engineering departments, and so on. The same goes for VW’s other brands. Ford, and especially GM, on the other hand, use centralized control and operations. So a Mercury was just a slightly fancier Ford. A Pontiac was little differentiated from a Chevy. Even though VW’s approach involves a lot more overlap and duplication of resources, it clearly produces better results.
Speaking of brands, don’t forget to tune in to Autoline After Hours tonight, live at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Our guest tonight will be Joe Serra, a car dealer with a lot of background in the Saturn brand. We’ll be talking about what’s going on in the retail-end of the business, as well as our comments on the news going on in this industry.
But that brings us to the end of today’s report on the top news in the global auto industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.